1. The claimant who had met with a Motor accident had filed a claim of compensation before the Tribunal of Rs. 30,000/- and as he had no means to enable him to pay the requisite court-fee amount of Rs.950/- he had prayed for instituting the proceeding as pauper under Order 33, Rule 1. The learned District Judge who was acting as a Claims Tribunal having dismissed this application on the sole ground that the claimant had two cows and one buffalow worth Rs. 1,400/- from which he could raise the necessary funds for the purpose of paving the aforesaid court-fee amount, the claimant has filed this revision application.
2. Under Order 33, Rule 1 Explanation 'a person is a 'pauper' when he is not possessed of sufficient means to enable him to pay the fee prescribed by law for the plaint in such suit. This provision has been enacted by the legislature with the object to enable poor persons who are too poor to pay the court-fee to file their suits without the payment of necessary court-fees. It is in the light of this object behind the salutary provision that the expression 'sufficient means' has to be interpreted. In Ramanuja Ayyangar v. V. S. Gopalan, : AIR1934Mad561 , Ramesam, J., had categorically pointed out that 'the test was not whether he has this power of raising money in the abstract, but whether in the concrete circumstances of the case he can succeed in raising anything substantial by exercising it.' Therefore, until it was shown that he could raise money, it follows that he was a pauper. Such a question whether the plaintiff was a pauper or not would, therefore, turn upon the circum stances of each case. Harrison, J., in Lal chand v. Mt. pisto, AIR 1928 Lah 271 also laid down that the use of the word 'means' was intended to cover and include all forms of realisable assets which can be converted into cash and as such can be used for financing the litigation. Mr. Mehta, therefore, vehemently argued that the trial Court had applied the right test for judging the plaintiff's means by considering whether on his cattle he could raise the necessary amount of court-fees of Rs. 950/- and therefore, such a pure finding of fact, could not be interfered with in a revision application, as there would be no question of any jurisdictional error, and in any event, such an order could not be interfered in a revision. Mr. Shah on the other hand rightly pointed out that this order goes to the root as once such a poor claimant is not permitted to sue as pauper, his suit would be frustrated. The order would, therefore, be a final order against which a revision application could surely lie. Besides, the expression 'possessed of sufficient means' has to be construed in its proper context so that it serves the salutary object of enabling the persons who are too poor to enable them to fight their suits without paving the court-fees. Unless the language of the statute is first interpreted in its proper context, there would be no exercise of discretion and the order passed rejecting the permission would be one in plain violation of the statute and would be an ultra vires order against which such revision application would surely lie.
The short question which was posed before the learned Judge was whether the legislature contemplates that while considering the available means to the plaintiff his sole means of livelihood should be included in disposable or realisable assets even though legislature had provided the necessary safeguard of 'sufficient means' in this expression in O. 33, Rule 1. If such an interpretation was to be put on this statutory language, it would mean that a farmer who would have on1y a plough or the necessary implements of agriculture would have first to sell away those agricultural implements or such a milk-man would have first to sell away his cattle or a lorry man would have to sell away his small lorry on which his sole livelihood depends. That would mean that the man would have first to starve himself before he is entitled to approach the Court, to file his litigation. That would frustrate the very object of this statutory enactment which enables too poor people to file their suits without payment of court-fees in the first instance. Therefore, the available means or resources and their sufficiency would have to be judged in the light of disposable property on the facts of each case, for effectuating this purpose in question, so that even such a poor litigant is enabled to fight his litigation, without depriving him of his sole means of livelihood.
In the present case, the claimant has alleged that he had lost his job by the accident and was already bed-ridden and had to sell away his household articles for medical treatment. If, therefore, even the sole means of livelihood i.e., his cattle are first to be sold, it is obvious that such a suit could never be filed by such people. Therefore, the learned trial Judge was obviously in error in interpreting the statutory language to mean that the sole means of livelihood should even be included in judging whether he had sufficient means to pay the court-fees to file this litigation. The claimant had deposed that the cattle had become dry cattle. The valuation has been given by the claimant at only Rs. 1,400/-. But even then it was obvious that the learned Judge was bound to take into account only the surplus, available means or actually disposable or realisable property, after making due allowance for what was wholly necessary for the livelihood for this man. The legislature never intended that the litigant should first starve before he could file the litigation as pauper. The only answer which could be given on a true construction of the statutory language was that the petitioner had no available surplus means which were sufficient to pay this large amount of court-fees of Rs.950/-. Therefore, the petitioner ought to have been allowed to prosecute the present claim as a pauper. Therefore, the order being clearly ultra vires and without jurisdiction must be set aside. In the result, this revision application is allowed, by making the rule absolute and the matter shall now go back to the Claims Tribunal for expeditious disposal in accordance with law as it has been sufficiently delayed.
3. The rule is made absolute with costs against Respondent No, 1. No order as to costs of Respondent No.2.
4. Revision allowed.